Improv proves surprisingly touching in a world where nothing lasts, and letting go is exceedingly hard. Relationships are interwoven with ambition, love, and self-doubt. Throw in reproach, good cheer, and creative jealousy and we have our set for the company of players called The Commune.
A professional coming-of-age film this may be, but at times it feels like a documentary. The ins and outs of fast-paced performance art is experienced along with the intimate feelings of this New York troupe. The specific rules of improv are given as three: always say ” yes”, never say “no” or over think, and “build with the group”. “Fall and then figure out what to do on the way down.”
The acting is impeccable, the actors, themselves~ not so much so. Character flaws are real ,and jabs at them are honest. Truth-seeking and truth-telling are comedic here, but painful, too. Heartfelt struggling to live in the present is the film’s focus. The Commune is losing its performance space and two of the six members have been hired by ” Live Tonight” ( akin to the stellar ” Saturday Night Live”) . Change is forcing the troupe to recalibrate.
Mike Birbigilia writes, directs and stars. A year in the life of Miles ( Birbigilia), Jack ( Keegan Michael Key) , Allison ( Kate Muccucci ), Samantha ( Gillian Jacobs ), Lindsay ( Tami Sagher ), and Bill ( Chris Gethard ) rolls on. Their relationships both at work and otherwise are intertwined so closely that “group think” is mastered and sometimes stolen. Or can a part take the whole as his own? One cast member loses his father and another two un-couple. Break-ups and uncertainties reign, but so does acceptance and love.
“Has anyone had a particularly hard day?” is the query that begins each improv sketch. Making a joke-filled scene is a way to get through life, or better yet to joyfully sail in the present. Here, I wish the sets were a tad wittier. The pace is good, but the lines less than hysterical. The snarky criticisms are more fun. One of the player’s Irish accent sounds like a speech impediment. Allison, also a fledgling cartoonist, has been nine years on her ” doodle book”. A dying man’s “thank you” is mocked.
Impersonations rock. Obama and Liam Nielson are Keegan Michael Key’s best. “I donate at the office for those who have to come home from their European trips early” is an example of constant understatement fun.
Existential in nature~ just being in the moment makes on-stage and off-stage change feverishly exhausting, just like life. “Putting the plane together when you are already in the sky” is also what the less strategic of us do. Improv lovers and ” go with the flow livers”, ” Don’t Think Twice” is a paen to you. My teaching friend, Jon Colby, take note!